“If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?”
Who doesn’t remember this ridiculous line from their childhood? The schoolyard taunt was directed at a whole array of things that one might be inclined to defend – best friends, the teacher, or your favorite color crayon. Normally, or hopefully, most people grow out of such childish taunts when they reach an adult age and start to mature.
Apparently that isn’t necessarily true for anti-GMO activists and, unfortunately, one interviewer used such a taunt against a respected scientist while he was attempting to promote Golden Rice. The now infamous YouTube video shows a short clip of an interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, where he states that glyphosate does not cause cancer and that you could drink a quart of it without it hurting you. The interviewer then mocks Dr. Moore by offering him a glass of glyphosate to drink. Realizing the interview is a sham, Dr. Moore ends the interview and walks off camera.
The video clip launched the attack by anti-GMO activists of Dr. Moore and anyone supporting genetic modification – if glyphosate is so safe, then why don’t you drink it? Naturally, activists also alleged that Dr. Moore was a paid Monsanto lobbyist.
So, first of all, who is Dr. Moore?
Dr. Moore, who has styled himself as The Sensible Environmentalist, works primarily on efforts to promote adoption of Golden Rice. As a co-founder of Greenpeace in Canada, he dropped out of the organization quite a while ago and has written about his experiences since that time. The real reason activists have a problem with him is his positive position regarding genetically modified crops.
(If you forgot, Golden Rice is the rice that has been genetically engineered to include higher levels of Vitamin A. The goal of the GMO is to help children in parts of India, where Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent and causes blindness. I stated before, and still maintain, that opposing such a product simply because you’re afraid of genetic engineering is unethical and selfish. But, I digress….)
Oh, and Dr. Moore has nothing to do with Monsanto. Of course, glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up, which can be paired with Round-Up Ready corn, soybeans, and sugar beets as one of the most prevalent genetically modified traits being used in the world.
Now, I’m not that familiar with Dr. Moore’s work, so I have no idea where he stands on a whole host of issues that I may find important. Nor do I care to find out, because that isn’t the real issue here. The entire drama gives us a glimpse at just how contentious and ridiculous this entire conversation has become. Forget Dr. Moore for a second, his comment was dumb anyway.
The real issue is that we now have a whole movement that really honestly believes that we should go around judging whether or not something is safe for use by whether or not we would drink a glass of it. While it may have started as a way to mock Dr. Moore, this has somehow become a slogan and justification for hating GMOs. Just like Food Babe refusing to eat ingredients if she cannot pronounce the name, we now have a bunch of activists steadfastly refusing to listen to reason on technology because we wouldn’t drink a glass of Round-Up.
Though, I suppose if you’re going to out right deny science, then I shouldn’t be so surprised that you think this is a justified argument. With over 2,000 studies showing that the genetically modified crops available commercially are safe, activists want to divert attention to the ridiculous off-the-cuff comment by a scientist during a live interview. How about addressing some of the real fallacies to your claims?
Or, just for a moment consider how you’re hurting farmers and consumers with your false allegations against biotechnology? It’s so easy to poke fun and joke around when you don’t have a care in the world for the hard-working farm families that provide the food in your pantries. Not to mention that while activists are out employing schoolyard taunts, farmers are trying to figure out a way to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050 with less inputs – that will require doubling production numbers from 2008, by the way.
One good thing did come from the drama. The taunt inspired Kavin Senapathy to start a hash tag trend on Twitter. #IfItsSafeThenDrinkIt encouraged followers to post photos of products that are safe, but that we probably won’t be drinking a glass of any time soon.
A couple of my favorites:
#Organic pesticide anyone? Come on, down the hatch! #IfItsSafeThenDrinkIt pic.twitter.com/mOonyOqbuM
— Kavin Senapathy (@ksenapathy) March 29, 2015
@ksenapathy No. Just no. #IfItsSafeThenDrinkIt pic.twitter.com/v78FCap2DZ
— J. D. Horschel (@HorschEL_Jefe) March 29, 2015
Oh, and in case you’re wondering how Dr. Moore feels about his less-than-charismatic answer, Dr. Moore offered the following as an explanation for what actually happened:
For many years, my opponents have claimed that I am a paid lobbyist for GMO seed companies, in particular Monsanto. This is a technique used to avoid debating the science that proves Golden Rice and GM foods are safe. Monsanto has now issued a statement that I have never been employed by them (link 2 below) so I will no longer have to put up with that lie. Personally, I admire Monsanto’s leadership in improving many crop varieties, through both conventional breeding and transgenic breeding.
Unfortunately, I accidentally gave my opponents another distraction to use while being interviewed on French TV a few months back. I was extremely upset with this interviewer as he lured me to an interview under false pretences. It was meant to be an interview on Golden Rice and he pulled a stunt on me. The video has since been cleverly edited to distort my actual opinions on the subjects discussed.
I did not intend to say that glyphosate was “safe” to drink, it is not intended for consumption. My point was that in almost all cases it is non-lethal to drink in large quantities and therefore ‘safe’ in the manner that it is used in farming worldwide.
I conduct hundreds of live interviews each year and this is not the first time I have made a mistake under the pressure of a live interview and probably won’t be the last. Only those who put themselves in this situation would understand how difficult it is to do a live interview with a hostile host.
I had stated in a previous interview that glyphosate was safe to use in agriculture and mentioned that it has such low toxicity that drinking a large quantity of it at the concentrations used in farming would not cause permanent damage to humans. In the middle of the interview now being circulated, the interviewer abruptly changed the subject to glyphosate and asked if I would drink a glass of it on camera. I blew up at him because clearly only a fool would drink an unknown substance offered by a hostile stranger live on camera. I had never said I would drink glyphosate in the first place, only that nearly all the people who have tried to commit suicide by drinking it have failed. And they were drinking concentrations of glyphosate far higher than those used as a spray to control weeds. Glyphosate is sold as a concentrate and is typically diluted to 1- 2% with water before it is applied.
You can read his full comments here.
Amy C says
I knew there had to be a second side to this story. Thanks for clearing it up!
? How about the Parental refrain ” if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump too? ”
Saying silly things tends to be met with exactly the same level of silly in response.
If people object so strongly to Peter Watson having been double dog dared to drink glyphosate (and watching the resulting ignominious spectacle of having him chicken out, and then try to bully the reporter, and finally take his ball and go home in a huff) maybe they should first caution Mr. Watson not to make blustering nonsensical statements to the press?
Why on earth would his frankly stupid and childish statement of “you can drink a quart of it and you’ll be fine” be met with any less ridicule than the reporter who – in just the same childish fashion, called him on his stupid statement?
And no.. it’s stupid to drink organic pesticides, too… and just as idiotic to assert that it could be done safely… by anyone…ever.
Peter Watson has the misfortune in that clip, to look like a bragging blustering salesman in a cheap suit.
I hope he will learn from this and try to be more professional in his statements, in future.
Who the F@#$ is Peter Watson? I thought the guy’s name was Dr. Patrick Moore.
A couple of things I have written in response to these sort of claims:
He (Moore) specifically says glyphosate, without specifying concentration, and the interviewer offers to hand him… something. What exactly did they have? He has no idea, which would make it a terribly stupid thing to spontaneously agree to drink. Is it actually glyphosate? Maybe. What concentration is it? What is in it other than glyphosate (surfactants)? And so on.
He probably should have responded with those questions rather than an immediate “No”, but when someone surprises you with a random liquid, you probably shouldn’t drink it. But pure glyphosate at sprayed concentration? I’d seriously consider drinking that right now.
So, is caffeine safe to drink? Is salt safe to eat? What about vinegar? Alcohol? There are countless things that you can’t consume in huge amounts.
LD50 Caffeine, rats ~200 mg/kg
LD50 Glyphosate, rats ~ 5,600 mg/kg.
In case you didn’t know, LD50 is the amount at which fifty percent of subjects die. See which is more toxic? And yet you aren’t screaming at people to stop drinking coffee.
Given that the current highest permitted glyphosate residues in a crop are 40 ppm, even if you make the absolutely insane assumption that EVERYTHING you ate had the maximum glyphosate level and you ate five pounds per day, you’d get about 91 mg of glyphosate. That’s about the same amount of (more toxic than glyphosate) caffeine you’d get in a Starbucks tall cafe mocha.
Dosage and concentration matter. You can’t compare a concentrated solution of glyphosate (say, a 41% glyphosate Roundup concentrate for agricultural dilution) to a dilute solution of caffeine (a cup of coffee) and use the fact that one might kill you and one probably won’t to argue that one is inherently unsafe. It just doesn’t follow, however much you wish it does and continue to repeat it.
Now, drinking concentrated Roundup can kill you – no one is disputing that it can. Of eighty ingestions of Roundup (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1673618), seven people died from drnking 85-200 mL of 41% glyphosate (though some survivors drank far more). So? Drinking an equally concentrated solution of caffeine would be far more likely to kill you. A 41% solution of glyphosate is actually 480 g/L (http://goo.gl/Varfss), so 85 mL would be 40.8 grams, and 200 mL would be 96 grams. That much caffeine would be near certain death.
And you can’t ask Moore to drink “100% glyphosate” as I have seen some do, because that’s impossible: one hundred percent glyphosate would probably be a white powder, as one of a variety of salts (potassium, trimethylsulfonium, isopropylamine, etc). To drink it, it has to be dissolved in water. And “Roundup” is not one thing, it comes in a variety of concentrations, from ready to use at home (2% glyphosate) to concentrate for agricultural dilution (41% glyphosate). Since antis are so concerned about it being sprayed on crops it would seem that the sprayed concentration is most relevan, and probably what Moore was talking about. From here: http://goo.gl/TPPMfb For Touchdown, we have 3 lbs. (ae) per gallon, mixed at one quart Touchdown to 10 gallons water, which gives a concentration of 0.075 lbs./gallon. Taking a quart of that gives us 0.01875 lbs, or 8.5 grams of glyphosate. Or from here: http://goo.gl/nCxMcxWe have 2.5 L/ha of 360 g/L (ae) in 100-200 L of water per hectare – if we use 100 L, that gives 9 g/L. Again, taking a quart of that gives us 8.5 grams of glyphosate. For a hundred kilogram man (just a guess obviously), that’s well above the reference dose (1.75 mg/kg/day), but well below the NOAEL level (175 mg/kg/day). http://goo.gl/3Jo5MJ